A note about the state of the average data lifespan and how it's changed throughout the years.
We live in a world where the cloud rules, where digital books wear out faster than physical books and where encryption makes content unreadable (without decryption) regardless of whether or not it's vulnerable. What do we have to show for all our work, all our memories? At this point in history it's next to nothing, even though our potential to preserve is at a maximum. I am not against preservation and archiving using technology. I simply want to bring one of our biggest overlooked problems into the light; our behaviors which are turning this era into an inevitable digital great unconformity…
How do we combat this?
To put it bluntly: stop developing new, especially proprietary, garbage. If that doesn't work for you, print it out. Having a physical copy that is observable with our immediate senses rather than through a document reader, browser, etc. is one way to fix this problem. However, that doesn't work with music, videos, and other digital media. Also, let's not forget, it's the future. Paper is kind of boring compared to a computer (sorry). Let's create truly standardized version formats that are free and open, and build devices that run off of long-term energy sources and are designed to do one thing, which is to allow access to those formats.
We don't have to throw profits out the window just because there's no money to be made on open formats and protocols — just make a good format-access client and sell it! Contrary to popular belief, there's certainly some incentive on the consumers' end. What's the number one thing people buy? Goods and services that make their lives easier. In my opinion, the best way to achieve this is to create a universal digital ecosystem, regardless of how you access it. The best way to do that?
Free and open protocols and format standardization.
Why does this matter?
This clip from the video "Selfie Waves" by Vsauce provides a great reason. The first death is your physical death, the second death is the last time your name is spoken, and the third and final death is the last time a photo of you is ever seen (or your work is recognized; writings, photos, etc). Because of photography we now have the potential to be remembered for practically forever (as long as the photos are preserved) - yet we're trending in the complete opposite direction.
What seems to happen is, every 10 years, someone comes along and decides that the previous iteration of a standardized format for any type of media is obsolete and convoluted, and that they need to fix it. This creates a cycle that can only be broken by creating true standardization in both formats and preservation methods. The devices mentioned in the previous segment, in my opinion, are a feasible way to do this.
As mentioned in the video, the picture of the unnamed lady is still around simply because someone printed it out and has preserved it all this time. I'd like to make it clear that I don't believe the best way to preserve things is to just keep physical copies of everything — that takes up space and wastes resources, ones that we have limited quantities of — I simply believe that something needs to change about our current methods.
My greatest example of why that's so is Google Plus; I spent a lot of time on Google Plus as a kid, and because it shut down (quite a while ago), large parts of the records I could've had that covered a big part of my life are gone forever. There's a growing list of these sites that are shutting down, never to be seen again — taking your precious data with them. Among all these reasons to preserve outside the digital world, there's one that irks me the most. As I grow and create more I become more aware how important it is that someone, including me, has a way to remember me and what I've done in life. Selfishly, I don't want my third death to be before my first.
I hope this post will help you realize the same.